When you choose a birthday gift for a family or close friend do you pick something good enough?
Would you return to a restaurant where the wait staff asks “Is your food good enough?” instead of “Everything taste good?”
Probably not. So why would you expect your funders, board members and partners to accept reports that are barely good enough. And why would you accept good enough for your organization when you have an opportunity to be outstanding in the reporting of your accomplishments.
I am often told by funders that they provide funding to local organizations because they know the organization and its purpose. The funders say they do not rely on reports because they are in regular contact with the organizations they fund by virtue of operating in the same community. But even though this coziness makes it easy to get some funding, it also creates artificial limitations. If you structure your reporting to only meet the expectations of the local funders who do not require much detail or measurement, you will minimize the possibility of appealing to regional and national funders and diminish your chances for larger funding opportunities. Non-local funders do not know your organization and grantors who make large donations have complex expectations for reporting. Good enough reporting keeps you local, outstanding reporting broadens your funding prospects.
Here are some things that will make your reporting outstanding:
- Include measurements that matter. Say your goal is to increase the number of students that graduate from high school. The appropriate measurement for your reporting is the number of students that graduated, not the number of ninth graders who got tutoring at your after school center. Including statistics for activities along the path toward your goal (number of ninth graders tutored, number of parents trained, number of PTA speeches, number of eleventh graders who improved grades, etc.) can be appropriate. Reporting these things in the proper manner help you demonstrate that your strategy is working and show what it takes to reach the goal. This will justify the money, support or partnership you are seeking. But the measurement should be the one that reaches your goal.
- Treat your reports as marketing collateral. If a report is written properly it can be included in whole or in part with grant applications or partner proposals. This not only saves you time down the road; it is also a real illustration of your accomplishments. An actual report is more impressive than a description – it is tangible and more succinct.
- Match your reporting to the goals of funders and potential partners you want to approach. In anticipation of seeking funding from a foundation or agency make yourself familiar with their goals. In hope of collaborating with another organization be sure you understand their mission and goals. Then include statistics and other information in your current reports that address those goals. This serves several purposes:
- Makes you look more broadly at the goals and actions of your organization or current project
- Does future work now – if you have to write a report anyway, prepare it in a way that it can be used in the future thus eliminating duplicate work
- Enhances the aspirations of your organization or project
- Illustrate how your strategy and efforts are scalable. Most funders who do not limit their funding to a local community want things they fund to be scalable. Usually funders require that a grant application and, especially, reports demonstrate scalability. Thinking about how your program can be scaled – duplicated, expanded, built on – and showing that in reporting eliminates the artificial limitation that you can only get local funding. Demonstrating scalability will not hurt you with local funders and it will certainly make regional and national funding a stronger possibility.
Some of you are probably thinking that reporting already takes up too much time, not to mention that it is annoying. Just take a deep breath and read the above bullets again. This time try to think of all the time you have spent writing a grant from scratch (because you could not use reports or anything else already written) and the frustration you felt when you did not get funding (because they didn’t see the value of your proposal, project, organization).
Bottom line – do reporting on a level that matches your aspirations not on a level that is good enough.